K1 Visa Experience
Our Experience with the K-1 Visa Process
This article is about the K-1 Visa process. A K-1 Visa is also known as the marriage visa. I am from the United States and my husband is from the UK. Perhaps you can learn from what we went through.
The K-1 Visa process has taken years and quite a bit of money. Anyone considering marrying someone from another country really needs to do their homework on the laws specific to their situation.
I want to share my experience with you and let you know the things that I believed helped us. Please understand that every situation is different and I am by no means offering legal advice. If your situation has any type of complications you don't see covered on an official government website, you very well may need to hire an attorney specializing in immigration. Typical attorneys usually do not have enough background in immigration law. You really need an immigration specialist.
First, you will want to locate your government's official website. There are lots of unofficial websites out there and they will give you conflicting advice. However, one thing that everyone agrees on is the importance of good documentation.
These are the steps we took to obtain a K-1 Visa (aka Marriage Visa) and my advice based on my specific experience:
- The U.S. citizen (Petitioner) in a K-1 Visa is responsible for gathering various documents to send with official form(s). Make sure you fill out all the requested information neatly and completely. Send original documents only when you are required to. Copies should be sent when allowed.
- Assemble all the forms and supporting documentation in the order requested and attach a cover letter itemizing all the items you're sending
- Make a copy of everything for your records. You'll be glad you did if anything should turn up missing.
- Mail the form(s), documentation, and proper fee (for us it was over $300) to the USCIS Service Center appropriate for your area. This address can be found on their website. It does change sometimes due to workload. Fees also change. Make sure the amount you send is correct. It will be rejected if it is not correct.
- Do not make any travel or wedding plans until your visa is formally approved. You cannot guarantee the timeline of any of this process.
- The USCIS will send you confirmation once they have received your documentation called a Notice of Action (NOA). You will receive another notice (NOA) once they have approved your petition. Once the Service Center has approved your petition they will forward it to the National Visa Center.
- The National Visa Center will notify the U.S. Embassy located in the country foreign Beneficiary (your fiancé/fiancée) is a citizen in.
- The Embassy will notify the Beneficiary with a checklist of documentation to gather. Promptly return the documentation.
- The Embassy will notify the Beneficiary of the date and time of a scheduled medical exam located at a physician in the Embassy town. This can mean extra travel and expense depending on how far your fiancé/fiancée lives from the physician's office and what time the appointment is. There is a fee involved. For us, it was close to $500 plus travel expenses since he lived hours away from where he was required to go.
- The Embassy will notify the Beneficiary of a time and date to come in for an interview. Again, this may cause extra travel expense. Be prompt. Please understand that the Embassy has tight security and will not allow some items. Don't take anything with you that may cause you problems. Use common sense.
- At the interview, be polite and understand the seriousness of the procedure and the importance of being honest.
- Assuming all is well with the medical and the interview, the Embassy will notify the Beneficiary that the K-1 Visa is approved. For us, from the time we mailed the initial paperwork until my fiancé received his Visa approval was 5 months.
- Once the K-1 Visa is approved there is a 6 month window for the Beneficiary to travel to the United States. Now is when you want to book your travel and plan your wedding date.
- The beneficiary will be met at the point of entry into the United States and will receive an I-94 that will be attached to his/her passport. This starts the 90-day window for getting married. It is beneficial to get married early in the 90-day period if at all possible. If the ability to work immediately upon entering the United States is important to you, you will want to check on temporary work authorization.
- As soon as possible, you'll want to apply for a social security card. We did this his first week here. The SS card he received in the mail indicated that DHS (Department of Homeland Security) approval was required for work authorization. Authorization will come with the approval of a ‘change of status. We tried to apply for his Texas Driver's License but unless we could show at least 6 months prior to expiration of a Visa, they required a change of status before they would approve the driver's license. Since the K-1 visa is only valid for 90 days upon entry, the K-1 visa would never work for getting a Texas Driver's license. We'd have to get the change of status first.
- Immediately, after getting married you will want to promptly file a change of status. The form, fee and address can be found on the official website. You want it to be approved before the K-1 expires and that doesn't give you much time. There is a hefty fee for this filing. For us, this was over $1,000. That's a lot of money considering all the costs you've already had, plus all of the relocation and travel expenses, and a wedding.
- You'll receive notice of a Biometrics appointment at the closest service center. Again, travel may be involved. We were scheduled at a location about an hour away.
- The work authorization was received about a month after they received the application and the Permanent Residency card was received 3 ½ months after the forms were received by them.
- The Permanent Residency card under the K-1 Visa is considered a conditional permanent residency and you have to apply to remove the conditions after 2 years. That involves more paperwork and more money. Another biometrics appointment, and you get your official green Permanent residency card that is good for 10 years